Name: ELYSÉE NZOHABONAYO
Host Institution: Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Course: Master of Science degree in Aquaculture
Thesis: ENHANCING FECUNDITY OF OREOCHROMIS KARONGAE THROUGH HYBRIDISATION AND NUTRITIONAL INTERVENTIONS
Final report for master’s degree in Aquaculture
Home University: University of Burundi
Host University: Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources
BRIEF STORY ABOUT STUDYING ABROAD
My name is Elysee NZOHABONAYO, I am a Burundian and currently in Malawi having just completed my Master of Science degree in Aquaculture in the Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and natural resources (LUANAR), Malawi.
I arrived in Malawi on 1st November 2013. I had no idea what lay ahead but within me I knew it was going to be an experience of a lifetime. It has been a two year journey with memories that will never be erased from my mind. I arrived at around 9 pm at Kamuzu International Airport. However I was disappointed because the staff delayed to pick me on time. As I was waiting, another lady from Ethiopia joined me in the afternoon at around 2 pm, thereafter we were picked together at 3 PM. I couldn’t converse freely with the Ethiopian lady because I had little understanding of English language. After settling in the campus, I realized that apart from the Ethiopian lady, there were other four classmates who were all men (from Sudan, Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi) This encouraged me and I felt happy to have been awarded the scholarship by the SHARE to study in Malawi.
Malawians are very social people full of courtesy and they like to teach foreigners how to greet one another in local language, CHICHEWA (Mwadzuka bwanje? for Good Morning and Mwaswela bwanje? for Good afternoon). I found that we have the same behaviour in greetings and even there are some similar words in chichewa and Kirundi, which is a national language in Burundi, my country.
For the first two weeks, I was assigned to be eating at the staff restaurant by the housekeeper. The Nsima (a kind of cake made of Maize flour) which is taken together with either chicken, beef and vegetables are common food in most of restaurants in Malawi. Rice can also be used instead of Nsima, however the latter is the staple food in Malawi. While Nsima here in Malawi is soft, back at home is a little bit hard. Meat is also very common and the main source of protein in Malawi and is eaten almost every day. I thought I would die in Malawi because of taking more animal protein. However I slowly got adapted to this type of feeding habit.
On average we were spending close to between 2000- 3000 Malawian Kwacha on meals per day (approx. 6 Euros). We found this to be more expensive for us and therefore we started to cook our own food. In Burundi, apart from Malawian foods, we also have cassava, peas and beans in our daily serving and I had to incorporate them in my meals. My other colleagues were sceptical about trying local dishes so they were still eating rice but at a cheaper price than the restaurant.
Academically, we were a class of 6, the four of us under SHARE, one under RUFORUM and one was self-sponsored. In total we were five gentlemen and one lady. The class was very interesting and we learnt different cultures. When one was calling back home the others could not understand what he or she was talking about. I started to miss home when the assignments started coming continuously with every lecturer wanting to deliver the best to these international students, I would imagine myself in my house relaxing yet here I was spending sleepless nights to meet the deadlines in submitting assignments. I love excellence but for once I found myself doubting if I was going to sail through with the same flying colours I am used to.
The grading system was another issue. Here at LUANAR, they use GPA system and a GPA of less than 2.0 at the end of an academic year for a postgraduate student is a fail which means that one cannot proceed to the second year to conduct research work. I had never encountered this GPA thing before and I was so confused. All I knew was that in order to get a GPA of 2.0 and above one need to score not less than C- (60%) in all the courses taught. A GPA of between 2.0 – 2.99 is termed as a pass, a GPA of between 3-3.59 is a credit and a GPA of between 3.6– 4.0 is a distinction at LUANAR. In Burundi, the system is very different, they use Fail when your score is under 54%, 55% to 69% is considered to be a satisfaction, distinction from 70% to 79%, High Distinction from 80%-89 and Excellent 90%-100%. In addition, the system of doing assignments and mid semester exams were something new to my mind because in Burundi we used to write one exam at the end of each course.
The atmosphere is so serene, it just ‘breaths’ books. No noise, no rowdy students. My confidence soared when we did our first test and believe me, I scored all with a GPA of 3.32, the highest in our class was around 3.5 while the lowest was 2.6. I started to realise that I will succeed to complete my master’s degree. The lecturer-student relationship here is so relaxed. The respect is there but the friendship also exists. I learnt a lot too from the students in terms of Malawian culture.
Socially, I attended different Sunday’s services and I found that there are some differences in behaviour such as dressing and dancing which I was not used to in my church. I then found another church, Swedish Pentecost Church, which has the same behaviour like my Church Pentecost in Burundi. I would aboard the bus to that place even if it was far from our college. I also participated in wedding of different people, funerals and other ceremonies and I found something strange which I would not forget in my life. The normal ceremony was very nice, they would bring a braai in the open place and roast meat as we listened to a good sound of music, enjoying dancing and chatting the whole night.
Economically, Life is very expensive in Malawi, when I came I had 30$ which I exchanged at Kamuzu International Airport at the rate of 367 MK /$ and therefore I was given 11,000 MalawianKwacha, the local currency in Malawi. When I arrived in campus a meal was 1000. I was about to go back home because that money (30$) is only enough for one person to eat at least for 15 days. However things changed when I started to cook for myself. Most of goods in major stores as well as transport cost are expensive compared to Burundi.
I had the opportunity to visit most of the town in Malawi during our study trips. It is a beautiful country with flat terrain as compared to Burundi. I enjoyed my stay despite the challenges, which are found all over the world.